Get benefits right: generate productivity

01 November 2016 Hannes Viljoen & Shelley van der Westhuizen, MMI

Productivity is a major issue in South African workplaces.

The latest MMI Effective Employee Index reveals that almost half of all companies have excessive lost productive work time. Together with presenteeism (being at work but working ineffectively) and other impacts, this could be costing the economy as much as R70bn annually.

Assist tackle

Hannes Viljoen, Head of MMI’s Health Centre of Excellence, says that getting the right health benefits in place is one critical and under-appreciated way for financial advisers to assist employers to tackle this issue.

“Too often, health benefits are simply assessed narrowly in terms of bottom line costs when there is a far more important wellness goal of healthier employees working more productively,” says Viljoen.

This will result in fewer claims and, when they are incapacitated in any way, employees are incentivised to return to health and to work as promptly as possible.

The privileged few

“The MMI Effective Employee Index also shows that simply having access to private health care reduces absenteeism yet only one-third of South African employees have such access and in many industries this figure is lower,” says Viljoen.

This means that, where relevant, financial advisers should implore employers to consider expanding the cover net through low cost options.

He also urges financial advisers to help employers to see the value of optimising benefit packages on both sides of the basic health equation - prevention and cure.

In terms of prevention, a holistic understanding of the particular workplace wellness environment on the part of the service provider will allow them to design interventions to improve it.

Important considerations

In curative terms, the right mix of risk cover and appropriate claim conditions is an important consideration. A short notification period for a disability claim allows for early medical intervention which often leads to swifter recoveries.

The reverse applies to waiting periods where a short interval will drive higher full disability claim rates and a longer interval can encourage an eventual return to work.

Financial advisers can also help employers tackle the medical cost crisis by providing gap cover; many employees feel exposed by their medical aids not keeping pace with unavoidable bills but if they know they are fully covered, they are more likely to seek treatment earlier which will speed up their return to productivity.

Shelley van der Westhuizen, Head of Business Financial Wellness and Client Experience at MMI Corporate & Public Sector, adds that advisers and employers should always consider the financial and mental wellness of employees as much as the physical part.

“Anxious, depressed or stressed employees often show presenteeism and while there are many complicated factors in the equation of mental health, a relatively easy improvement can be made by giving confidence to employees that they, and their dependents, will be provided for in the event of an unforeseen medical crisis. Another important action is assisting employees to meet any unplanned essential expenses which can be a significant source of stress,” says Van Der Westhuizen.

Viljoen acknowledges that some of these measures could lead to an increased cost for the employer in benefit provision however this should be viewed as an investment which can reap massive rewards.

He believes that if the relationship between the health benefit provider, the adviser and the employer can be one of genuine partnership then productivity, and profitability, will be increased within the organisation.

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